The education sector is one of the areas which World Vision Malawi is working in and its National Director Francis Dube acknowledged the efforts done in improving quality of education especially among children.
He noted that despite this, gaps still exist in ensuring children read with understanding and comprehension measured by their ability to read and write in a certain age groups.
With high pupil-teacher ratio, a 10 percent learning poverty and inadequate teachers, this compromises the quality of learning.
Dube bemoaned a scenario where many children are sharing few learning facilities noting the environment is not conductive enough for them to easily assimilate the rightful knowledge and skills.
“What we’re really driving at is let’s work together as different key partners to advocate and increase the budget allocation which is actually going to the education sector. When you increase the budget allocation, then we can have more teachers that will then be able to teach the children.
“With more classrooms constructed, it will create a better learning environment for the children and then we can have more reading materials. It’s not a suitable situation when children share texbooks in class”
Acknowledging the challenges in the sector, education Minister Agnes Nyalonje indicated that for this year and next four years, government will be constructing almost 11, 000 classrooms in the primary sub sector.
It will also be topping up grants to primary schools and making sure that female teachers are placed in rural schools, and reintroducing hardship allowances for those in hard to reach areas.
She stated that through the Malawi education reform programme, it is working towards improving inclusiveness in the schools.
Government is also planning on a dedicated radio to reach school going children with education programmes and other sectors to broadcast critical programmes and this is expected to start this month end.
There are also plans to better manage teachers through establishment of a council to look into their welfare.
“So the teachers council of Malawi by the end of this month should also be up so that’s quite a lot of action because we believe that the problems are significant but we also believe that step by step we can address the problems and that’s exactly what this government is doing.
“We are working to improve how we manage teachers; how we educate teachers because there are people busy in the Ministry working with partners to look at new programmes for teacher training whether online and face to face; because gradually we want to phase out certificate qualifications amongst teachers. But these are plans that we are working at step by step and you can be sure we’ll get there”
Chairperson for Parliamentary committee on socio affairs Savel Kafwafwa noted that some of the gaps identified are social in nature citing school drop outs which he attributed to poverty and lack of motivation.
As a social committee of Parliament, it has statistics which show that if a parent didn’t attend school, they equally won’t encourage their wards to go there.
“In highly impoverished communities, even the attendance to go to school is also very low and you have seen that in areas where we are implementing the school feeding programme, it has a huge impact in terms of attendance. But we are trying to encourage the communities to say they should avoid a dependency syndrome if organizations such as World Vision bring us some food for your programmes, we should develop our own ways of sustaining that. Villages should at least have a plot where they can start to cultivate on their own so that the school feeding programme can still be sustained.
“So we are encouraging World vision to help the communities to work towards those sustainable ways like for example if World vision is this time giving food for school feeding programme, we would like them to start transitioning where they might bring fertilizer and other essentials for farming so that later on the communities should start learning little by little to depend on themselves in terms of such initiatives”
Dube echoed the feeding programmes are a big motivation for children to attend classes.
He noted that in some vulnerable communities, they cannot afford three standard meals per day and when children go to school without food, their concentration levels becomes very low.
“It’s important to have children provided with food at school but it should not always be driven or supported by donors. We need to create situations where the communities themselves are empowered to produce food for these children.
“So if we’re able then to have resources again as part of this advocacy work where we support economic activities, schools to be able to produce their own food they become more sustainable and then they are able then to feed provide food to children for extended periods of time”
In the 2021-2022 budget, the education sector was allocated K420 billion.